Are alt tags still relevant?

June 10, 2024 | by NeSEO

When optimising your website for better visibility, your meta data plays a crucial role. As the keywords and phrases behind your website, your meta data can provide all the additional information search engines need to help them understand, organise and use your website’s content correctly, as well as point browsers in exactly the right direction.

Alt tags are just one aspect of the bigger meta data picture, but how did they come about and are they still relevant today? In this blog post, we answer these questions and much more…

What exactly are alt tags?

Alt tags - or ‘alternative text’ as they are officially known - are used within the HTML code of your website alongside any imagery. Each alt tag offers a short and succinct description of each image on a web page.

Also referred to as alt attributes and alt descriptions, alt tags are there to aid accessibility for those who cannot view the image for whatever reason.

When were they first introduced?

Alt tags have been around for as long as we can remember. They first appeared in 1993 during the early days of HTML. Back then, browsers were predominantly text-based with alt attributes playing a vital part in supporting browsers that did not or could not render imagery.

While text-only browsers became less and less common as the years rolled by, the use of image and area tags became a requirement with the evolution of HTML and the introduction of the 4.01 specification in 1999.

Why are they still important today?

Even to this day, alt tags continue to improve accessibility across the web, with their use supporting those with visual impairments or people who rely on screen readers to browse the internet.

They are also instrumental to search engine optimisation (SEO). Search engines, like Google, cannot interpret images directly. As a result, they use alt tags to garner vital information and rank your website accordingly.

How can you create effective alt tags?

With a better experience accessible for everyone, getting alt tag writing just right is important. Keep alt text descriptive but to the point, using keywords strategically, not stuffing! Your alt text should provide a concise picture of what’s going on, delivering all the information browsers need without having to see the image at all.

Remember, different types of images need alt tags, including those used for ecommerce (i.e. product images), charts, diagrams and infographics.